Skip to main content

Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy addresses a news conference hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression while his wife Marwa Omara looks on in Toronto, Oct.13, 2015.

Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Nursing a broken shoulder and contending with insects in his cell in Cairo, Mohamed Fahmy kept up his spirits with contraband press releases. Smuggled in by his wife amidst plates of rice and fish, the printouts attested to efforts by advocacy groups and opposition politicians in Canada to secure the Canadian journalist's release.

Mr. Fahmy, whose prolonged detention became a global cause célèbre, was pardoned by Egypt's President in late September and returned to Canada on the weekend. On Tuesday, at a news conference in Toronto, he thanked the people who worked for his freedom, especially the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, which organized the event.

"I probably survived because of your support outside," he said. "If you ever doubt that these campaigns make a difference, I'm living proof that they do."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Fahmy's wife, Marwa Omara, said she was looking forward to finally "having a normal life."

"The last few years have been so hard and so dramatic," she said.

But Mr. Fahmy seems intent on making a splash now that he is back in Canada. He signed a book deal with Random House in April and will soon take up a post at the University of British Columbia's Global Reporting Centre. He has also become a vocal advocate for other journalists still behind bars in repressive countries.

On Tuesday, he alternated between elation and bitterness as he took questions from journalists, returning frequently to the subject of the Conservative government's handling of his case, which he has sharply criticized.

"It was difficult not to feel betrayed and abandoned by [Stephen] Harper," he said.

The Prime Minister should have intervened more forcefully and earlier in his detention, Mr. Fahmy said.

"In my cell, I refused to recognize at first that Mr. Harper was not putting his full clout behind me," Mr. Fahmy said. "Even Egyptian officials were saying that Mr. Harper is not there for you."

Story continues below advertisement

A report by The Canadian Press Tuesday indicated that Mr. Harper had in fact spoken with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi about Mr. Fahmy's case, but the former CNN reporter shot back that the Conservative Leader should have been more transparent about his efforts.

Mr. Fahmy also met with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair on Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon respectively. He said he would be glad to meet with Conservative Party officials, but thought it unlikely that they would ask.

"If they're in the mood to say hello, they know where I am," he said.

Wading into the Conservative government's record more broadly, Mr. Fahmy criticized the anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51, for limiting civil liberties. He saved his harshest invective for Mr. Harper's use of the niqab as a wedge issue during the campaign, calling it "appalling."

"There's obviously a malicious intent behind that," he said. "I just think it should not be brought up during elections."

With the help of UBC, Mr. Fahmy is trying to establish a Vancouver residence in time to vote in Monday's election. He declined to say which party he would be supporting, but added, "You know who I'm not voting for."

Story continues below advertisement

The long tenure in prison may have stoked Mr. Fahmy's political convictions, but it did not extinguish his sense of humour. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, he joked that his wife would bring him "very cold pizza" in prison, and remembered the prison guards asking him to say good things about them on TV when he was released.

Mr. Fahmy's 21-month saga began in December, 2013, when he was arrested and eventually convicted of terrorism-related charges while covering political upheaval in Egypt for Al Jazeera English. After spending more than 400 days in prison, he was released and then re-convicted on charges of spreading "false news."

Though he says he hopes to recover from his ordeal in Canada for a while, Mr. Fahmy also expressed a desire to keep reporting from the Middle East eventually.

"I'm a front-line reporter," he said. "I get bored in the studio."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter